Broad involvement

Broadening responsibility of countering attacks

Responsibility to help counter threats such as cyberattack, nuclear terrorism and bioterrorism must rest not just on government but also parts of the private sector


Responsibility to help counter threats such as cyberattack, nuclear terrorism and bioterrorism must rest not just on government but also parts of the private sector. With regard existing computer software used in forms of cyberattack, the international community is already considering 21st century Rules of War. Are there institutions such as hospitals that must not be attacked with malware? Are some forms of cyberattack simply too uncontrollable to be acceptable? Should some cyberweapons be banned by international treaty?

Such agreements must be made by governments – but it is largely only people in academia and software companies that can advise governments what the emerging issues are, let alone do anything about them. And alongside governments, it is the business community and civil society that must accept shared responsibility for minimizing cyber risks. The state alone cannot possibly do all the heavy lifting. Every form of relevant expertise needs to be coordinated into a combined counter to cyberattack. Computers need to be designed to be more secure. Schools must be more vigilant and encourage in their pupils far-more-responsible attitudes to unprotected sharing of software. Companies other than just the obvious targets (such as defense contractors, suppliers of piped water and tube-train services) need to up their game with regard cybersecurity because it is they rather than their well-protected colleagues that are increasingly likely to be targeted. On top of all this, designing or using computer malware should carry far stiffer penalties under international law, and governments should cooperate in a global clampdown.

Increasingly-rigorous monitoring must be used to secure against access by terrorists or rogue states to nuclear materials – with the aim that eventually every nuclear container is tracked electronically. Developments in ‘nuclear forensics’ (decoding the signatures of materials sourced from different fabrication facilities) should be integrated into a process of international law under which countries are held accountable for any aggressive use of their nuclear material. A worldwide rapid-response system should be set up to monitor for bioterrorist attacks or accidental release of pathogens. And in order to help counter-terrorism generally, far more sophisticated mechanisms should be created across the international banking system to locate and block terrorist fund-transfers flowing electronically from one account to another.